Despite the enormous enthusiasm and the efforts that the authorities in Bulgaria and Macedonia have demonstrated regarding the visit of the head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis, his “colleagues” in both countries have welcomed him as an ordinary believer.
Even though he was met by the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, he was greeted by the patriarch and the metropolitans as a secular leader, refusing to
hold a mass with him.
Some of the Bulgarian archbishops voiced their protest because he was going to be holding a mass in front of the “St. Alexandar Nevski” in the center of Sofia, but they didn’t obstruct his way when he entered the temple to pray.
The high-ranking priests were silent to that and smiled. Previously, at the reception at the Synod, the Pope kneeled and kissed the encolpion on the chest of the Bulgarian patriarch.
The coldness of the archbishops was seriously criticized by the analysts. Some of them saw Russian influence in their behavior.
“This man was good-intended, calm, well mannered. He is behaving like a human, normally, and he never forgets that he is a guest. The commentaries issued by former agents of State Security and the Russian agents regarding Pope Francis can be easily explained – he is all they have never been and hardly they will ever be. As much as our spiritual leaders try they cannot erase the doubts about which is stronger about them: their fate or their service as agents of the State Security “, коментира Veni Markovski, Bulgarian internet pioneer.
In Macedonia, despite the relative silence, before the visit of the Pope , archbichop Agatangel voiced his opinion who explained why the Catholic church and its chief cannot be accepted in the Orthodox church as equals, reminding of the dogmatic differences and the great schism dating from 1054.
A joint meeting was not planned with one of the high ranking officials of the Macedonian church. A meeting between Pope Francis and religious leaders at the Mother Theresa Memorial House.
The situation in both countries was as many analysts have predicted – a warm welcome from secular authorities and a cold shower from the religious authorities.
Nevertheless, the representatives of the Bulgarian and Macedonian churches, during the celebration of Sts Cyril and Methodius, were always greeted warmly by the Pope. Even in different times when the relations between both countries and churches were not so good.